Last night’s Red Wings game saw them fall by a 3-2 score to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first game of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There was some good, some bad, and a lot of mediocre.
Here’s my list of “Ten Things I’m Sure Of” after watching Game 1 of Lightning/Red Wings:
1. The better team over the 60 minutes won the game.
All that despite a first period where Detroit withstood some consistent pressure, and suffered through some defensive lapses, bad first passes, and what looked to be a notable mismatch from a speed and energy perspective for Tampa’s forwards (with a couple exceptions) against Detroit’s much-maligned blueline.
2. Not sure how many games the Red Wings can count on goals from defencemen but they got that from Mike Green, and for all intents and purposes, Kyle Quincey – though it tipped off Abdelkader. I’d guess most NHL teams win playoff games when they get goals from two different blueliners, at least if you don’t count the entire decade of the Eighties.
3. The problem with getting defenceman scoring twice and losing a game 3-2 is that no one else scored, except Abdelkader on the tip. #OFCOURSE you won’t win many games without more than one goal from a forward. That said, Pavel Datsyuk had his usual opportunities, yet except for a few early chances for Gustav Nyquist, Detroit’s best player by far in the first period, and an invitingly open net for Brad Richards in the 2nd period, there just weren’t many chances.
4. Your best players have to be your best players, right? But when we’re talking Detroit’s forwards, this feels like a debate that could cross a lot of people up, and almost generationally so. You want to say Detroit’s best forwards are Datsyuk and Zetterberg. The goals and assists tell you so. Sorry, I don’t see it, and you didn’t either tonight. They looked old and slow and overmatched, and of course, again, the series is very early…until it isn’t. I thought Kronwall was lousy and got better. I thought Zetterberg started OK, and was a liability in the third.
5. Ice time for forwards is going to be pushed towards Jeff Blashill, or at least it should be by someone with some semblance of pride in terms of asking tough questions. For Dylan Larkin to play under 12 minutes, and for Henrik Zetterberg to play nearly 20 — there’s so many issues there, I woudn’t know where to start. Especially 5-on-5. Larkin had 36 points at even-strength in 2015-16, and Zetterberg had 28, playing THREE EXTRA minutes a night of ice time. Let’s even assume, liberally, two of those minutes are even strength — over the 80 games, they both played, Zetterberg had 160 minutes of ice time (eight entire periods) Larkin didn’t have, and two extra games Larkin didn’t play, and still was outscored by eight points. Too many Red Wings penalties (including a particularly boneheaded one by Abdelkader after the Bolts took the lead for good) so you can’t use Larkin as much? No. Bad logic. Joakim Andersson got more even-strength time in this game than Larkin. That’s utterly inexcusable.
TOI chart via hockeystats.ca
6. While we’re on the topic of Joakim Andersson, and his 9:59 tonight. I still don’t have a good answer as to how the Red Wings’ franchise is better served giving that time to Andersson and not Anthony Mantha. If Andersson played only 3-4 minutes, I get the debate of Mantha’s “benefit” playing top-line minutes in an AHL playoff run. But what benefits the franchise? Winning things does. Winning playoff series does. Why do you develop players in the first place? So you can have them available to win playoff series. Mantha should be in this lineup. I won’t entertain arguments to the contrary at this point. Can’t do it.
7. The Green/Ericsson combo (yes, Green scored once, and almost twice) was just plain dummied by Tampa’s forwards. At one point in the third period, Tampa changed lines, eventually getting all three forwards off at different intervals while the Wings had the puck stuck in their own zone, mostly at stick’s length or between the skates of the aforementioned defence pairing. Your eyes weren’t deceiving you — the pair were a combined -18 Corsi, and -20 Fenwick. You don’t need mathematics degrees to know how abysmal that is.
8. There were positives, don’t read me wrong. I thought Alexey Marchenko acquitted himself quite nicely in his first-ever NHL playoff game. Earned all of his 18 minutes, and change, and played a Lightning 2-on-1 in the 2nd period to perfection when Nik Kronwall (not very good at all in the first half of the game, easily the Wings’ best blueliner in the latter stages) simply flubbed the puck away at the Lightning blueline. I wanted to see more than 8:45 of Andreas Athanasiou — tied for SECOND in shots on goal for the night on the Wings with 4 (Datsyuk had 7). Datsyuk did enough — most dangerous Red Wing, and he’ll bury some goals if he keeps getting those chances in that quantity.
9. Jimmy Howard — thought he was fine. Now, “fine” is better than “ok” or “adequate” but certainly isn’t as good as “excellent” or “fantastic”. He didn’t have quite enough to do to be either of the latter terms. Most people look at a box score the next morning and assume he wasn’t the issue, and in this Game 1, I don’t believe he was. But the chance to steal a game was clearly here once it became 2-1. In last year’s series between the clubs, six of the wins saw the victorious team never trailing. Only standout from that script was DRW’s collapse in Game 4 — and here tonight, the Red Wings led (on the road) in the second period and didn’t win. You only get so many chances to survive that.
10. Let’s look at the Lightning (did you hear Stamkos & Stralman are out and the series will be over quickly?) — Braydon Coburn was fantastic. No, the offensive gifts he was forecast to have in the Show never quite materalized, despite the terrible and lopsided trade the Flyers got him in almost a decade ago (Coburn to Philly, with Alexei Zhitnik going to Atlanta — he’s 44 years old now!!!) but he can steel wheel the puck with ease out of the zone, get a whistle when needed, and isn’t easy to battle off the puck. Detroit’s old pal, Val Filppulla was just fine, a +5 Corsi and a dominant 17-10 record on faceoffs. I might not be in the majority, but loved Drouin’s game. I thought he had a very hard luck penalty (the first one) and threatened the Wings defenders all game. Steve Yzerman should be pleased. Incredible, really. A freaking AHL outcast a month ago, and now is a good bet to play more than the six playoff games he had last spring before he became a full-on outcast.
Game 2 — I hear it’s pivotal! Nothing to be “staved off” yet! Anyway, it’s Friday at 7pm. Feel free to tweet at @gbradyradio — I got me some time to respond. Thanks!